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Lawrence Norris was born on the 14th April 1897 in Preston the son of William and Mary Norris (nee Moloney). He was the second child of five born to his parents, although one son died in infancy; James (1893), Lily (1899), William (1904-1904) and William Charles (1909). Lawrence`s father was originally from Chorley and his mother Mary hailed from Cashel in County Tipperary, the couple married in Preston in 1892.

In 1901 the family home was at 3 Rigby`s Court in Preston where William Norris was a labourer and Mary was working as a cotton weaver. By 1911 the family had moved to 34 Snow Hill in Preston and Lawrence`s father was now labouring for a building contractor while his elder brother James was labouring in an iron foundry. Lawrence and his sister Lily were both still at school. The family also had two lodgers, 63 year old Mary Heaton, a widow, and 18 year old Walter Heaton (1893), also a labourer in an iron foundry.

When war was declared Lawrence was only 17 years and 4 months old but despite his young age he joined the 1st Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment with the service number 2361. Prior to his enlistment he had been working at Messrs. Irvin & Sellers in their timber works in Preston and his family`s address was now at number 12 High Street. Lawrence`s Medal Index Card notes that he disembarked in France on the 20th September 1914.

Walter Heaton who had previously been living with the Norris family had joined the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment in January 1912 and was also with the 1st Battalion, service number 10289. He disembarked in France on the 12th August 1914 as part of the British Expeditionary Force. Although Walter enlisted under his Heaton surname the Norris family seem to have `adopted` him and he was frequently referred to as a `son`. After Lawrence arrived in France he was posted to the same Company as Walter.

Later newspaper information suggests that at some point during April/May 1915 Lawrence was shipped back to England suffering from the effects of gas. It would also appear that his `brother` Walter (Heaton) had also been wounded and he too came home for treatment.  Shortly after Lawrence arrived home his father William enlisted, joining the Middlesex Regiment and then a week after his father enlisted his brother James joined the 10th Kings Liverpool Regiment.

A photograph of William Norris and his three sons, Lawrence, James and Walter (Heaton) appeared in the Preston Guardian together with a news article not long after both Lawrence and Walter had returned to the front line;

On the 2nd October 1915 another newspaper report appeared in the local paper, Lawrence and Walter had been hospitalised again, Lawrence was wounded and Walter was suffering from gas poisoning, the injuries probably sustained during the 1st Battalion`s involvement in the Battle of Loos.

2nd October 1915 – Preston Herald

SOLDIER BROTHERS IN HOSPITAL – Two Preston Soldiers, Private Walter Norris (21) and his brother, Private Lawrence (19) are in hospital for the second time. Walter, who has been twice wounded, is now officially reported to be suffering from gas poisoning, whilst Lawrence, who was gassed about five months ago, has been wounded. Both belong to the 1st Battalion L.N.L. Regiment, and live at 14 High Street, Preston.”

Lawrence eventually recovered from his injuries and would then have had a period of convalescence followed by a short period of leave before being posted back to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion at Felixstowe in order to prepare for going back out to the front. However, another newspaper report appeared in the Preston Herald under the date 11th March 1916 which suggests that Lawrence had other ideas;

 “FED UP WITH SOLDIERING” – “Lawrence Norris (18), an absentee from the 3rd L.N.L. Regiment, stationed at Felixstowe, was remanded to await the arrival of an escort. Detective Garth said that when he arrested him in a yard near his home that morning, Norris said he was “fed up” – Norris who appeared in court in civilian attire, remarked, when asked if he had anything to say, “I am not going to do any more soldiering” – On the Chairman remarking that the usual reward would be granted the Officer, Norris said “I am not going to do any more fighting, that`s another thing”.

Unsurprisingly the Military did not agree with Lawrence`s view and he was sent back to France yet again where he re-joined the 1st Battalion. Later newspaper information states that during his war service Lawrence was wounded in action on several occasions, having already been gassed in 1915, he was later wounded in both legs and right arm, he also sustained a bomb wound to the head, a gunshot wound in his right hand and he had also suffered wounds to his back. Lawrence was back in England again later in 1916 and by February 1917 he had recovered and had been posted back to the 3rd Battalion at Felixstowe once more.

However, another newspaper report appeared in February 1917, Lawrence, it seems, had gone AWOL yet again;

Preston Herald – 10th February 1917

MILITARY ABSENTEES” – Lawrence Norris (19), who admitted being an absentee from the 3rd Battalion L.N.L. Regiment stationed at Felixstowe, was remanded to await an escort. Detective Officer Lee spoke to arrested prisoner in High Street, the previous evening and the Chief Constable informed the Bench that this was the fifth occasion on which Norris had been charged with being an absentee”.

In the September quarter of 1917 Lawrence married Margaret Ann Davis in Preston but whether he was officially home on leave or otherwise is unknown. Lawrence returned to France again not long after his marriage but in early October yet another newspaper article appeared, this time in the Preston Guardian, the paper reporting that Lawrence had been wounded for the sixth time;

A similar report appeared in the Preston Herald under the date 6th October 1917 which gave a bit more detail stating that Lawrence had been admitted to Birmingham War Hospital after having the calf of his right leg blown off. The paper also stated that it was his brother James Norris (King`s Liverpool Regt.) who had been admitted to Lord Derby`s War Hospital suffering from blindness due to the effects of gas.

James Norris was discharged on the 25th January 1918 and was issued with a Silver War Badge numbered B39675, the SWB record noting his discharge was due to `sickness`, although it`s very likely his sickness was probably due to the effects of gas. After his discharge James Norris returned to the family home at 12 High Street in Preston and then on the 7th September 1918 another newspaper article appeared concerning an `incident` at his home. It would appear that Lawrence had gone AWOL again and James was doing his best to assist his brother. James was arrested and summoned to appear before the Magistrates for “resisting the Police in the execution of their duty” the piece entitled “Struggle with the Police”;

“At Preston, this morning, James Norris, (23), discharged soldier, was summoned for resisting the Police in the execution of their duty.

P.C. Helm said that at 2.30 on Sunday morning last, he went to 14 High Street to arrest defendant`s brother, who was an absentee. Defendant denied all knowledge of the man, but he was in the house, and on witness arresting him, defendant swung on his arm, and did all he could to prevent the arrest, the absentee also resisting. P.C. Horrocks and P.C. Wilding came to his assistance. Defendant and his brother continued to struggle in the street. It was only with great difficulty the arrest was effected.

Defendant denied that he had used any violence, and declared that he simply asked the constables to handle his brother carefully, as he had an open wound on his leg. He declined to give evidence on oath, and called no witnesses.

Fined 50s – or 21 days.

The Armistice was declared on the 11th November 1918 and the following day, no doubt to his great relief, Lawrence was finally discharged from the Army and issued with a Silver War Badge, B39341. After the war Lawrence also received the 1914 Star, British War and Victory Medal in recognition of his service for his country.

After his marriage to Margaret Ann Davis in 1917 the couple went on to have three children, two daughters and a son. Sadly, their son Lawrence died aged 2 years old in 1921.  By 1939 Lawrence and Margaret Ann had divorced and Lawrence, a labourer, was living alone at 195 Bow Lane in Preston.

Lawrence passed away in his 66th year on the 24th February 1963, his probate record showing that at the time of his death he was living in Caravan No. 53 on Greenwood`s Caravan Site on Lea Road in  Freckleton.

Janet Davis
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